The WAC just gets more wild by the week. UTRGV goes in and upsets GCU in a thriller at GCU Arena. UT Arlington goes on the road and upsets Stephen F. Austin. California Baptist goes on a 22-0 run and blows out Seattle U.
It is all just another week around the Western Athletic Conference. We are now two weeks away from WAC Vegas. Officially 15 days from the start of the WAC Tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena.
Four games left for most teams. Three games left for those who were supposed to play New Mexico State. Tarleton has two games left. The Texans host Utah Valley on Thursday before finishing WAC play at UTRGV on Saturday.
The regular season title race is still very much alive. Seeding is still on the line. Considering how wild the first eight weeks of WAC play have been, the final two weeks should bring plenty of fireworks.
Here are some thoughts from week 8 of WAC play.
UTRGV, UT Arlington Show Depth of the League
Coming into the 2022-23 season, it was made known that the WAC was deeper than it has been over the past 10 seasons. Southern Utah was bringing a winning reputation over from the Big Sky. UT Arlington, with its resources and locale, was adding a better product to the league, as well.
No longer were there sub-300 KenPom teams in the WAC. No offense to Chicago State or Lamar. It is just a fact.
This past week, UTRGV and UT Arlington showed that they are not pushovers. Not at all. The Vaqueros went in and shocked the world with a thrilling road win at GCU. UT Arlington knocked down perimeter shots and made enough stops to shock SFA at The Sawmill.
Upsets are going to happen. Fans love to see them. However, these upsets have a bigger impact. As of Sunday morning, the WAC did not have a team in the sub-260 in the NET. Along with that, the lowest WAC team in the KenPom rankings is UTRGV at 252.
— UTA Men’s Basketball (@UTAMavsMBB) February 18, 2023
At the end of 2021-22, the WAC had three teams in the sub-300 range in the KenPom rankings. In 2022-23, it is very possible the WAC will not have a team in the sub-250 range.
That is how deep the league is in 2022-23. Two teams have eclipsed the 20-win mark already. Four others are within reach.
And yet, WAC Vegas is WIDE open.
The depth of the league has been extremely impressive in 2022-23. UTRGV and UT Arlington are prime examples of that notion.
What’s Wrong With Seattle U?
Let’s go back to week five of WAC play. Seattle U was 7-0 in league play and generating a lot of buzz. Then, similar to 2021-22, the Redhawks had to go on a difficult two-game road trip. This time it was to Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin.
Well, the Redhawks hit just nine field goals in a 55-40 loss at Sam Houston. Two nights after that poor shooting performance, SFA handed the Redhawks their second straight loss.
That was the start of a four-game losing streak. The Redhawks snapped the streak with a pair of wins over Utah Tech and Grand Canyon. For a moment, it seemed like perhaps the Redhawks were going to right the ship.
Then, the CBU debacle happened. The Lancers got out to a 22-2 lead midway through the first half on Wednesday at the CBU Events Center. The Redhawks never recovered in an 84-63 loss.
On Saturday night, the Redhawks struggled offensively again.
Paris ties the game up at 37 with this pull up 3️⃣ with 11:57 left to go in the second frame pic.twitter.com/h6Kgn7szwm
— Seattle U Men's Basketball (@seattleumbb) February 19, 2023
First half shooting: 30.3 percent
Second half shooting: 30.3 percent
An identical 10-33 from the field in each half in a 67-58 loss at the Redhawk Center to Utah Valley.
Four assists on 20 made field goals. 5-23 from 3-point range.
Over the last eight games, the Redhawks have failed to score 70-plus points in six of the eight games.
I don’t have the answer to the Redhawks struggles as of late. But something isn’t clicking. Seattle U has three games left. The Redhawks go to GCU on Friday and then finish at Utah Tech and at home against UT Arlington.
In order for the Redhawks to keep a top-4 seed, they will have to win out.
Player of the Year Race is Down to Two
People might think I am crazy for saying this, but the Player of the Year race is down to two names. Southern Utah’s Tevian Jones and Grand Canyon’s Ray Harrison.
Some fans might not like it. However, these two have been the most consistent and both of their squads are in the running for a top-4 seed.
On top of that, the numbers are consistently there. If anything, Ray Harrison has the lead in this race based off what he is doing in WAC play. Harrison is averaging just over 20 points in league play and has multiple 25-plus point performances. In fact, since the Jovan Blacksher injury, Harrison has had to take on an even bigger role.
With GCU sitting at 9-6 in WAC play and 17-10 overall, the Lopes still have a shot at a top-4 seed. Harrison will be a catalyst in the final three games of the regular season for the Lopes.
Tevian Jones continues to put on a show. His poster dunk of Tanner Christensen on Friday night made the SportsCenter Top-10.
“Flynn coaching him up, Katie pumping him up and Mistah Jones gettin up. Poster time.” pic.twitter.com/3uwj9Kkxhp
— WACHoopsDigest (@WACHoopsDigest) February 19, 2023
Jones is averaging 16.8 points in league play. The only time Tevian Jones did not score in double figures was in SUU’s win over Tarleton on Feb. 9 in Cedar City. The athleticism, length, and ability to pull-up on a dime from anywhere on the floor make Jones a matchup nightmare.
Jones has opportunities to win this award. The T-Birds play at Sam Houston and host GCU on March 1.